Iowa Neuroscience Institute Awards Accelerator Grants

Three teams of researchers have won Accelerator Grants from the Iowa Neuroscience Institute (INI). These grants support high-impact neuroscience research in areas that are new or add value to existing research by branching in a new direction.

“Creativity is a hallmark of the University of Iowa and our neuroscience research is no exception,” said Ted Abel, INI Director and professor of molecular physiology and biophysics. “These projects represent the type of innovation we need to make revolutionary discoveries in fundamental neuroscience and to translate an understanding of how the brain works into clinical treatments.”

The following projects, selected from among 25 applications, each received $75,000 for one or two years:

John Freeman, PhDKrystal Parker, PhD“Cognitive functions of the posterior cerebellum”
John Freeman, Ph.D., professor, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences
Krystal Parker, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry

Tumor removal, stroke, psychiatric disorders, and degenerative disorders can cause damage to the cerebellum, leading to deficits in cognition. A major challenge for understanding the effects of cerebellar damage is that lesions affect large areas, making it difficult to pinpoint subdivisions of the cerebellum tied to specific cognitive function. Freeman and Parker propose studies to identify the areas of the posterior cerebellum that are crucial for memory and executive function. The localization data can then be used to guide manipulations of posterior cerebellar interactions with areas of the forebrain that have been shown to contribute to memory and executive function and thereby gain a more mechanistic understanding of how cerebellar pathology leads to cognitive deficits. This could point the way to new treatments for cognitive deficits in cerebellar patients by restoring specific functions within the cerebellar-forebrain circuitry.

“Molecular alterations associated with synapse remodeling in Parkinson’s disease”Kumar Narayanan, MD, PhDAmy Lee, PhD
Amy Lee, Ph.D., professor, Department of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics
Kumar Narayanan, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Neurology

Neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease cause alterations in the structure and function of excitatory synapses in the striatum, a key brain structure involved in the control of movement and cognitive function. Lee and Narayanan propose to use unbiased proteomic techniques, electrophysiology, and morphometric analyses to investigate the molecular signature associated with pathological changes in synapse structure and function in striatal neurons.


Jatin Vaidya, PhDEmine Bayman, PhD“Personalized neuromodulation for treating post-surgical pain”
Jatin G. Vaidya, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Psychiatry
Emine O. Bayman, Ph.D., associate professor, Departments of Anesthesia and Biostatistics

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has emerged in recent years as a promising alternative to opioids for management of chronic pain. Vaidya and Bayman propose to use resting state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate changes in brain network connectivity patterns that predict the effectiveness of TMS. By assessing pre-surgical brain networks, they hope to identify brain connectivity patterns that predict efficacy of TMS as a treatment option for post-surgical pain.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018